Amazons 3#: Owned by the Amazons April 25, 2013Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback
In 1542, the party led by Francisco de Orellana, travelled down the Amazon hearing rumours of a mysterious female nation of warriors: these rumours were recounted early on in two villages, and we have already covered these episodes in the previous days (1, 2). However, by June of that year the Spaniards believed that they were moving into Amazon territory.
The Monday after we went off from there, passing through very great settlements and provinces, getting food as best we could when it lacked to us. That day we came to a settlement (ediano?), where the inhabitants awaited us. In this settlement there was a very great square and in the middle of the square was a great table (plaque?), about ten by ten feet, carved and worked with images, showing a walled city with its wall and gate. Against this gate there were two very high towers with windows, and each tower had a door which faced the other and in each door there were two columns. All of this image was settled on two very fierce lions who looked behind as if hiding the one from the other (?recatados) and these lions held all the image in their arms and claws, in the middle of which [the city] was a round plaza and in middle of this plaza was a hole where to offer and throw maize liquor for the sun, that is the wine that they drank, and the sun is the one they adore and hold as their god.
El lunes adelante partimos de allí, pasando siempre por muy grandes poblaciones y provincias, proveyéndo nos de comida lo mejor que podíamos, cuando nos faltaba. Este día tomamos puerto en un pueblo ediano, donde la gente nos esperó. En este pueblo estaba una plaza muy grande y, en medio de la plaza, estaba un tablón grande de diez pies en cuadro, figurado y labrado de relieves, una ciudad murada con su cerca y con una puerta. En esta puerta estaban dos torres muy altas de cabo con sus ventanas, y cada torre tenía una puerta frontera la una de la otra, y en cada puerta estaban dos columnas, y, toda esta obra ya dicha, estaba cargada sobre dos leones muy feroces, que miraban hacía tras como recatados el uno del otro, los cuales tenían en los brazos y uñas toda la obra, en medio de la cual había una plaza redonda; en medio desta plaza estaba un agujero por donde ofrecían y echaban chicha para el sol, que es el vino que ellos beben, y el sol es en quien ellos adoran y tienen por su dios.
This image clearly made a huge impression on the Spaniards (mucho de ver) perhaps not least because there are no lions in South America: were these jaguars? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com And when they asked a local about it they got the following mysterious answer.
that [the Indians] were subject and tributaries to the Amazons and that they served (paid?) them with parrot and macaw feathers to [missing or illegible in Spanish] the tiles of their temples [las cases de sus adoraciones], and the villages that the Amazons held were made in this way [as in the image?] and so they kept the image and they adored it as something carrying the sign of their lady, who rules all the lands of these aforementioned women.
que ellos eran sujetos y tributarios a las amazonas, y que no la servían de otra cosa sino de plumas de papagayos y de guacamayos para en […] de los techos de las casas de sus adoraciones, y de los pueblos que ellas tenían era de aquella manera y que, por memoria, la tenían allí, y que adoraban en ella como en cosa que era insignias de su señora, que es la que manda toda la tierra de las dichas mujeres
As we come closer and closer to the actual encounter (or the believed encounter) between Orellana’s party (#4) and the women warriors it might be worth trying to establish where the Spanish actually were when these discussions took place. There is no question that they were on the Amazon, of course. But at what height were they? The map here was borrowed from the Athena Review with proper obsequies to the sordid gods of copyright. The infantile scribbles are our own.
What is most striking here is the range covered. The first two mentions of the Amazons come in the high Amazon, where Indians describe this strange people (see post 1# and 2#). The third mention is quoted here in this post. The fourth mention – the most confusing in many ways – involves a fight where the Spaniards claim that they saw several Amazons on the opposing side. There are two ways to look at this depending on whether you believe that the Amazons were legend or history. If legend then this was an Amazon wide myth, celebrated from the spring to the sea. If, on the other hand, the Amazons are history, the first two references reflect fearful rumours, while the third and fourth represent what might be called the Amazon epicentre. A seventeenth-century description claims that the river that led to the land of the Amazons was the Cunuris, marked on the map below in red: this is very much in epicenter territory.